The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) has developed a novel initiative that sets the table for a foundation of new blood in the industry.
Called Building Builders, the mentorship program matches 300 under- and unemployed workers with experienced workers from building companies across all disciplines in the province.
The idea is largely to ignite the development of a new corps of workers which can build experience and leadership skills to keep the industry ticking as older workers retire.
“This is a one-of-a-kind, one-to-one mentorship program that provides an opportunity for the existing leadership to be part of the evolution and development of the forward-looking construction industry,” says Chris Atchison, BCCA president.
The response from contractors has been “very positive.”
The program is not just for tradespeople but rather all types of job positions including project managers, estimators and procurement experts, says Atchison.
“We need to make sure that they have effectively had the ability to introduce and communicate the skillsets, the passion and the expertise to a younger generation.”
Each mentor works with mentees for a one-year period but the program has received funding for three years totalling $3.7 million from the Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada.
Atchison says the BCCA will be “really excited to see the program grow and thrive,” and adds along with assisting workers who are not yet on solid career paths, the aim is to improve apprenticeship registration and completion rates.
Seminal to its success is to draw non-traditional workers – a challenge in an industry dominated by “white men over 45,” says Atchison.
That new pool should have young people from many backgrounds, including Indigenous, women, people of colour and LGBTQ Plus communities.
“We need workplaces that represent Canada’s diverse economy.”
Launched in September, the program is in the process of signing up contractors.
Among the early adopters are EllisDon, Penfolds Roofing & Solar and Corrcoat Services Inc., a protective coatings and lining contractor, says Atchison, noting the first connections should be ready to work together by the end of October.
All mentors are screened to ensure they have the time and experience in the field. BCCA program staff will stay connected, offering both parties assistance if needed.
Creating compatible connections starts with AI software that helps to match up mentor and mentee information, says Atchison.
The program’s staff will introduce the parties to each other and go through the steps of building a solid relationship for the one-year duration of their time together.
Atchison says the industry needs to avoid past mistakes around labour scarcities. In 2008, skilled labour shortages were a hot topic in many industries but after the economic downturn in 2009, the issue fell by the wayside.
“There may be a correction or a downturn in the next two or so years and if and when that happens… we have to remember these conversations we’re having now and stay on the offensive to attract and retain workers.”
B.C. anticipates more than 27,000 job openings in construction by 2027 because of expansion and retirement.
“With our new apprenticeship services initiative we will be launching a campaign based on Builders Life B.C., talking about the lifestyle you can achieve through the high-paying jobs in construction,” adds Atchison. “We think it speaks the language of the youth today.”